Evidence for sexuality in the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus

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Abstract

Aspergillus fumigatus is a medically important opportunistic pathogen and a major cause of respiratory allergy [1]. The species has long been considered an asexual organism. However, genome analysis has revealed the presence of genes associated with sexual reproduction, including a MAT-2 high-mobility group mating-type gene and genes for pheromone production and detection (Galagan et al., personal communication; Nierman et al., personal communication; [2, 3]). We now demonstrate that A. fumigatus has other key characteristics of a sexual species. We reveal the existence of isolates containing a complementary MAT-1 α box mating-type gene and show that the MAT locus has an idiomorph structure characteristic of heterothallic (obligate sexual outbreeding) fungi [4, 5]. Analysis of 290 worldwide clinical and environmental isolates with a multiplex-PCR assay revealed the presence of MAT1-1 and MAT1-2 genotypes in similar proportions (43% and 57%, respectively). Further population genetic analyses provided evidence of recombination across a global sampling and within North American and European subpopulations. We also show that mating-type, pheromone-precursor, and pheromone-receptor genes are expressed during mycelial growth. These results indicate that A. fumigatus has a recent evolutionary history of sexual recombination and might have the potential for sexual reproduction. The possible presence of a sexual cycle is highly significant for the population biology and disease management of the species. ©2005 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.

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Paoletti, M., Rydholm, C., Schwier, E. U., Anderson, M. J., Szakacs, G., Lutzoni, F., … Dyer, P. S. (2005). Evidence for sexuality in the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. Current Biology, 15(13), 1242–1248. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2005.05.045

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